The two-day Senate confirmation hearing for William Barr, President Trump’s nominee for the vacant Attorney General post, concluded on Jan. 16 with the curious incident involving the nominee’s early career in the CIA and equally strange incident of his role in obtaining pardons in 1992 for fellow Republicans convicted of crimes in the Iran-Contra national security scandal.

william barr senate hearing cnn screengrab jan 15 2019Barr is shown at left in a screengrab from the hearing, with his wife at top right.

Remarkably, no one apparently raised (at least in depth) the nominee’s CIA background and his role facilitating pardons while he served as attorney general during the presidency of George H. W. Bush.

That’s this reporter’s recollection after attending part of the hearing, watching much of the rest cable television. An expert law professor afterward told me that he had watched the entire hearing and neither topic was mentioned by anyone.

Let’s invoke the famous Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of Silver Blaze” to reflect on why what we can call the "curious incident" of the omissions might be important in Barr's confirmation proceeding.

arthur conan doyle the adventure of silver blaze 1892 illustration by sidney pagetIt's one of the most popular Sherlock Holmes detective stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle. "Silver Blaze" describes s the apparent murder of the trainer of a successful race horse, Silver Blaze (shown in an 1892 illustration by Sidney Paget), and the horse's disappearance on the eve of an important race.

“The tale is distinguished by its atmospheric setting in 19th Century England and the late-Victorian sporting milieu,” according to the Wikipedia entry from which this summary is excerpted, including in language below:.

The story also features some of Conan Doyle's most effective plotting, hinging on the "curious incident of the dog in the night-time" that Holmes, a private detective, raises with Scotland Yard’s official detective Gregory:

Detective Gregory: "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."

Holmes: "That was the curious incident."

cia logoIn the matter at hand: 

William Barr kick-started his professional career with three years’ work from 1973 to 1978 for the CIA while he attended the George Washington University's School of Law. This was a period of intense change for the agency following devastating disclosures of major scandals in the post-Watergate era.

Vice President George H. W. Bush had been CIA director for about a year beginning in 1976 in the Republican Ford administration until the presidency of Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1977.

george hw bush HRFollowing a judicial clerkship, meanwhile, Barr went on to serve in a number of Justice Department posts in the Reagan-Bush administration, beginning in 1981.

Under President Bush (shown in an official photo), Barr heled progressively higher Justice Department positions. He became Deputy Attorney general in 1990. Barr served as Bush's second attorney general beginning in November 1991 following the resignation of former Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh.

Barr left the post in January 1993 as President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, installed his own team via the normal cycling of political appointees during a change of presidential parties.

Shortly before Barr left, he helped Bush facilitate the 1992 post-election pardons of six prominent Republican fellow appointees, most of them convicted of serious crimes involving the Iran-Contra scandal.

That scandal is best known because it revealed that Reagan-Bush administration officials knowingly violating a law enacted by Congress forbidding sensitive transactions involving Iran or right-wing rebel groups in Central America known as the “Contras.”

Iran, then as now, was particularly notorious because radical Muslims had seized American hostages during the Carter administration and voiced many anti-American threats.

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Former U.S. Attorney General William Barr, President Trump's nominee to return to the post, presented two starkly different images at his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing on Jan. 15 in Washington, DC. 

Barr, 68 (shown in a screengrab), stressed through his words and manner the appearance of an independent lawyer dedicated to public service and a "rule of law" according to relatively neutral principles on the conservative side of the political mainstream with his principles honed by his long William Barr smile fox screengrab Smallexperience and integrity.

These, nationwide cable audiences saw throughout the day, included Barr's respect and friendship for such former U.S. Justice Department colleagues as the current Special Counsel Robert Mueller III and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Barr's Republican supporters on the Senate Judiciary Committee eagerly promoted that Barr persona, which is most likely to maximize Barr's votes for confirmation. The supporters include the new chairman of the Republican-controlled committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, below right.

Barr's other persona was that of a pushy supplicant eager to butter up President Trump with dubious legal theories granting the president strong protections from federal corruption and lindsey graham judiciary chairmansimilar investigations. Those probes most notably involve Mueller's ongoing probe Russian influence helping enable Trump's 2016 presidential election victory, among other alleged misconduct or crime.

Support for that version of Barr's motives arose primarily from questions and comments by committee Democrats. Such questions came from those who cited Barr's previous written and verbal statements. The gist was that Barr sent an unsolicited memo to Trump's White House staff arguing that Mueller has been abusing his authority in unconstitutional ways.

Some have described Barr's public statements as a campaign for the post. Separately, some questioned Barr's statement to a New York Times reporter that prosecution of Hillary Clinton for a uranium deal approved by the Obama administration was more justified than the current inquiry over Mueller.

Barr would supervise Mueller if confirmed as attorney general and could fire Mueller.

So, the question remained at the end of the day: which, if either image, previews for the public how the real William Barr would act if confirmed?

The Justice Integrity Project will explore the possibilities in depth during this confirmation process. 

We begin with excerpts below on selected news stories and commentaries early this week about the nominee's confirmation process.

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During a tense, emotional hearing on Dec. 20, a federal judge rejected conflicting government recommendations and ordered a two-month jail sentence for a former longtime U.S. Senate staff member for lying to FBI agents investigating leaks of confidential information to journalists.

Former Senate Intelligence Commission staff member James A. Wolfe, 58, received the sentence in Washington, DC’s federal court after U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson rejected the Justice Department’s unusual request for greatly increased punishment and an even more unusual plea for leniency by top leaders of the Senate committee.

james wolfe cspanThe case’s drama included the defendant’s tearful apologies for wrongdoing that cost him both his job and threatened his marriage because the FBI exposed how Wolfe, shown in a file photo from an appearance on C-SPAN discussing security issues, had been having an affair with a young reporter.

Wider implications included prosecutors’ claims that Wolfe’s actions endangered national security and the judge’s detailed analysis of why the deserved jail time but far less than prosecutors had been seeking.

The judge, shown below right in a file photo, rejected the government’s theory that Wolfe, the Senate committee’s director of security for three decades, endangered national security in a way that deserved a vast elevation of his culpability under federal sentencing guidelines.

ketanji brown jacksonShe said that she would sentence him purely on the charge of lying in his plea agreement, but then said that he deserved jail time in part because he had violated his position of responsibility.

This reporter covered in person the sentencing and also the sentencing hearing two days previously in a nearby courtroom for former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who also had pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents.

Wolfe’s attorneys had cited as examples of leniency Flynn’s case, and the probation terms for former Clinton National Security advisor Sandy Berger (for removing classified documents from the National Archives) and for former Obama CIA Director David Petraeus (for disclosure of classified information to his lover and biographer Paula Broadwell).

emmet sullivan 2012The judge noted, however, that Berger and Petraeus had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges, unlike Wolfe.

Flynn’s sentencing has been postponed until March after U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, left, surprised litigants and commentators alike by denouncing Flynn.

Sullivan expressed doubt that Flynn should avoid jail time as prosecutors had recommended because of Flynn's extraordinary cooperation with the probe of Special Counsel Robert Mueller into the Trump administration.

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This concludes a four-part Justice Integrity Project series on life and legacy of the President George H.W. Bush, who died on Nov. 30. Bush is shown below right in an official photo from his term as president from 1989 to 1993.

The material in this Part 4 covers his presidential decision-making involving the Iraq War, his overall domestic program of deregulation and an overall historical assessment. The material is excerpted from this editor's book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters (2015 updated edition).

george hw bush HRThe material in Part 4, highlighted below in red, is taken from the chapter  'George H.W. Bush: Poppy's Seed and Bitter Harvest' (Part 2). 'Poppy'' was the late president's nickname among his family.

  • Introduction and News Clippings (Part 1)
  • Poppy's Progress (Part 2)
  • Texas Politics, Bush-Style
  • Deep In the Heart of Washington Intrigue
  • Refueling In Houston
  • White House Years and Fears
  • Iran-Contra
  • Deregulation
  • Iraq War
  • The Rest of the Story

Presidential Puppetry charted recent presidents' secret ties to the nation's elite private sector power structure (including major media organizations), which sometimes work Presidential Puppetry by Andrew Kreigcollaboratively with the CIA and FBI operational arms.

These professional ties helped enable the chosen political aspirants to establish support for their careers in ways that most of their political competitors and the public would never know, thus undermining the voting process (and implicating the corporate-owned media in a failure to inform).

The book included three chapters about the Bush family. The one about the late president, the focus of this series, was "George H.W. Bush: Poppy's Seed and Bitter Harvest."  Preceding that chapter in Presidential Puppetry is a chapter about Poppy's father, "Prescott Bush: Roots of the Bushes."

Following that in the book is a chapter about the more recent Bush president, "George W. Bush: Shameless, Heartless and Selected — Not Elected."

From the Chapter: 'George H.W. Bush: Poppy's Seed and Bitter Harvest'

Deregulation

george hw bush inauguration

Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a Republican appointee, swears in President George H. W. Bush in 1989 as the incoming president's wife, Barbara, looks on.

The central domestic purpose of the Reagan-Bush administration was to implement free market, free trade, and other deregulatory theories that supposedly hobbled the U.S. economy at the time. As with Iran-Contra’s radical cuts in constitutional checks and balances, Poppy Bush was at the center of the deregulatory changes that helped reposition the nation’s economic structure to align better with the perceived golden age of fewer government restrictions, as in the Roaring Twenties.

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This continues a Justice Integrity Project series on life and legacy of the President George H.W. Bush, who died on Nov. 30. He is shown below right in an official photo from his term as president from 1989 to 1993.

The material in this Part 3 covers his family life and career as he advanced from Texas politics to the national stage in Washington as a congressman, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, director of the Republican National Committee, U.S. envoy to China, CIA director and vice president to Ronald Reagan. The material is excerpted from this editor's book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters (2015 updated edition).

george hw bush HRThis segment, Part 3, covers the late president's biography highlighted below in red, taken from the book chapter  'George H.W. Bush: Poppy's Seed and Bitter Harvest' (Part 2). 'Poppy'' was the late president's nickname amongst family.

  • Introduction and News Clippings (Part 1)
  • Poppy's Progress (Part 2)
  • Texas Politics, Bush-Style
  • Deep In the Heart of Washington Intrigue
  • Refueling In Houston
  • White House Years and Fears
  • Iran-Contra
  • Iraq War
  • Deregulation
  • The Rest of the Story

Presidential Puppetry charted recent presidents' secret ties to the nation's elite private sector power structure (including major media organizations), which sometimes work Presidential Puppetry by Andrew Kreigcollaboratively with the CIA and FBI operational arms. These professional ties helped enable the chosen aspirants to establish support for their political careers in ways that most of their political competitors and the public would never know, thus undermining the voting process (and implicating the corporate-owned media in a failure to inform).

The book included three chapters about the Bush family. The one about the late president, the focus of this series, was "George H.W. Bush: Poppy's Seed and Bitter Harvest."  Preceding that chapter in Presidential Puppetry is a chapter about Poppy's father, "Prescott Bush: Roots of the Bushes." Following that in the book is a chapter about the more recent Bush president, "George W. Bush: Shameless, Heartless and Selected — Not Elected."

 

From the Chapter: 'George H.W. Bush: Poppy's Seed and Bitter Harvest'

Texas Politics, Bush-Style

george h w bush with children

Poppy Bush fathered six children. The oldest was the future president George, born in 1946. The next, Robin, died of leukemia in 1953 at age of nearly four. Barbara Bush [shown above in a family photo with her husband and four of the children] says it turned her hair prematurely white. A second son, John Ellis “Jeb” Bush was born in 1953.

rnc logoAfter the family moved to Houston in 1959, Poppy became active in Texas Republican politics. His initial post was as Harris County GOP finance chairman. This enabled him to leverage his financial contacts, and prepare for a losing Senate campaign against Democrat Ralph Yarborough in 1964. Bush aimed lower for his next campaign, and won a Houston congressional seat in 1966. By then a millionaire, he exited from Zapata Offshore by selling his shares to fellow Yale Bonesman Robert Gow.

President Nixon persuaded Bush to run again for the Senate in 1970, and rewarded him after another losing effort with an appointment to become the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. As a consolation prize for Nixon twice bypassing him as a vice presidential nominee, Bush became Republican National Committee chairman in 1973.

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Because the corporate-owned media have published only partial truths regarding life of the late President George H.W. Bush the Justice Integrity Project is providing what's most important about the rest of the story. The late president, who died on Nov. 30, is shown below left in an official photo used during his term from 1989 to 1993.

The material in this series is excerpted from this reporter's book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters (2015 updated edition).

george hw bush HRPresidential Puppetry charted the secret ties of recent presidents to the nation's elite private sector power structure (including major media organizations), which sometimes work collaboratively with the CIA and FBI operational arms.

Presidential Puppety: Obama, Romney and Their MastesOne of the book's central findings was to document via more than 1,100 endnotes that all recent presidents between President Jimmy Carter and Donald Trump established covert ties to the CIA or FBI before they entered politics.

These professional ties helped enable the chosen aspirants to establish support for their political careers in ways that most of their political competitors and the public would never know, thus undermining the voting process (and implicating the media in a failure to inform).

The book included three chapters about the Bush family. The one about the late president, the focus of this series, was "George H.W. Bush: Poppy's Seed and Bitter Harvest," which draws on the late president's nickname "Poppy."

Immediately before that in Presidential Puppetry is a chapter about Poppy's father, "Prescott Bush: Roots of the Bushes," describing Prescott Bush's path prescott bush yalefrom the Yale's Skull and Bones Society to helping finance Hitler's chief financier, Fritz Thyssen.

Prescott (shown during his college years at Yale) avoided wide exposure for his Hitler ties and won a U.S. Senate seat from Conncticut and becoming one of President Eisenhower's closest friends in Washington. The two are shown together in the White House Oval office, with Prescott at right.

The other Presidential Puppetry chapter picks up from the series below and describes the more recent Bush president, "George W. Bush: Shameless, Heartless and Selected — Not Elected."

From the Chapter: 'George H.W. Bush: Poppy's Seed and Bitter Harvest' (Part 2)

The series, from the Justice Integrity Project:george hw bush nydaily 12 1 18 cover death

  • Introduction and News Clippings
  • Poppy's Progress (This column)
  • Texas Politics, Bush-Style
  • Deep In the Heart of Washington Intrigue
  • Refueling In Houston
  • White House Years and Fears
  • Iran-Contra
  • Deregulation
  • Iraq War
  • The Rest of the Story
  • Poppy’s Progress
Read more ...